Ever since I was a teenager, India has always intrigued me. The vibrant colours, the architecture and its people. India seemed so different to England, it appeared to have a different flow, and a completely different culture; a different ‘vibe’. At the time, it was very much a passing dream that one day I would visit. It felt so far out of the realm of possibility. I had a lovely, hard-working family and lived in a brand-new council house. I had, in comparison to parts of India, a rich upbringing. Since then, I have realised that I take things for granted; food, water, electricity, a clean & warm bed, a roof over my head… As a teenager, there never seemed to be enough, my self-worth was low and my dreams of going to India never felt like they could become a reality.
I didn’t get on at school and left for college with not so great results. I had completed some work experience at 15, once within a nursery, and another at a Freeman Hardy Willis shoe shop. I decided to go down the nannying route and thanks to the nursery manager’s reference, I attended the NNEB course for nursery nurses. I left college and for a year spent my time working at a couple of different nurseries. After these couple of years, I realised that I was more interested in sales. I rerouted and decided to try and find a job working at an estate agent’s. With no experience, I walked up and down Dorking, Leatherhead, Epsom, Ewell going into estate agents and asking for a job. One day I went into Andrews Estate Agents and was offered an interview by a man called Clive. I had never had an interview before but I managed to convey my passion for sales and he gave me a job.
I left the estate agents and went to work for the Prudential. I pushed myself hard and became sales manager, where I stayed for nine years. I left when my eldest was 5 to explore my spiritual path and to be a mum to our two daughters.
We opened up Quest in 2007, when I was 40, and I still had not visited India, although it was still a faint dream in the back of my mind. It just hadn’t been the right time.
Our first ever customer to Quest was a man called Gerry, a builder from the shop next door. He told us that he lived in India for six months of the year. Sadly Gerry passed away this year and we miss reminiscing with him. It was Gerry who inspired my husband and I to go to India for the first time in 2018. After two trips to India, we had fallen in love, far more than we ever could have imagined we might.
It feels like a place where everything is possible, everyone is entrepreneurial and hard-working. India is completely how you might imagine it; colourful, busy, noisy, kind, vibrant, sacred, clean, unkempt, fragrant (both good and bad), it has poverty alongside richness, and a sense of realness to it. Above all, it is the connections we see and have experienced amongst those who live there. The warmth of their eyes, the smiles when sometimes no words are necessary.
In 2020, we connected with another of our customers, Romeo. Romeo is from a beautiful place called Pushkar, in the North of India, and had previously owned a couple of dress shops in Goa. For a couple of years, he was telling us our customers would love some dresses that he had at the time. The shop didn’t have too much space – so we took on just a few which proved popular and a perfect match for Quest.
It seemed that fate played a part in how our clothing brand came about. My dream of visiting India when I was younger, the opening of Quest, meeting Gerry & Romeo, and most importantly, seeing our customers smile when they looked in the mirror, wearing one of those dresses. It was a natural progression to start designing and manufacturing our own range of clothing.
Romeo introduced us to Ismail on a visit to the UK in Autumn 2022. Ismail is the owner of a textile factory in Pushkar. We have since visited Pushkar many times and again, fallen in love with it. When we opened Quest in 2007, our daughters were teenagers and by 2022 ready for a new challenge. They both have a keen interest in textile/fashion and retail (Amelia when she designed her own T-shirt brand at 15 and attended UCA in Epsom; Harriette has owned Hatty’s Sweet Shop since she was 18). My husband, Will, likes to say that he’s the background person, supporting from behind the scenes but anyone who’s met him will know how chatty and sociable he is. He’s a natural ‘front-of-house’.
Countless hours of meetings (over coffee), WhatsApp messages and by utilising each of our individual strengths, On A Quest was born. Our ‘tech man’ Alisdair and the whole team at Quest (especially Laura and Emma) have been behind us for our entire journey of developing On A Quest. Will came up with the name and we loved it.
Everyone who walks this earth is on a Quest to find a sense of belonging, fulfilment, love and purpose. We use clothes as a way to show who we are to the world and often find ourselves on a quest to find the right clothing to do just that. Our vision is for you to not only feel great in our designs but to allow them to show the world who you are.
At the time of writing this, I am in India working on our winter collection. Due to challenges out of our control, I’m here on my own, but technology has made teamwork possible. I have above all been warmly welcomed and taken care of. In Delhi, I ventured out of my comfort zone and went into busy areas to meet local suppliers and manufacturers. In Pushkar, Devendra and the team at Brahma Horizon in Pushkar have looked after me; Romeo’s brother Viru has been driving me about and took me to the Brahma Temple and Aarti last night. Ismail and his team have, as always, been very kind and helpful.
We are so excited to share our winter collection with you very soon and are open to ideas, feedback and working with our customers to create beautiful pieces. I find it so interesting how our whole life, the twists and turns, the people we meet, the choices we make, all lead us to this very moment. Everything is connected and has a part to play and I’m very grateful for everything and everyone that has been a part of this moment.
Carolina @ On A Quest